Postcard from Bainbridge Island, Washington: Land of towering trees and boastful blossoms

Hydrangeas

Dragoons, I tell you the white hydrangeas turn rust and go soon.
Already mid September a line of brown runs over them.
One sunset after another tracks the faces, the petals.
Waiting, they look over the fence for what way they go.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

They say the blues symbolize frigidity and apology; although it seems a gift of a bouquet of them could be easily misunderstood. Pinks represent heartfelt emotion. Whites boastfulness or bragging, symbolizing the giver or receiver? Victorians considered all hydrangeas as symbolizing boastfulness, because each stalk was covered with so many blooms. There are mopheads, laceheads and panicles, and it seems Bainbridge Island has every kind.

Most of these photographs were snapped in the 150-acre Bloedel Reserve; although towering trees, lush greenery and flowers can be viewed in any direction one wanders on the island until stopped by water frontage.

Virginia (1902-1989) and Prentice (1900-1996) Bloedel accumulated much of their wealth from his family timber business centered in Vancouver. The couple purchased the estate in 1951 and transformed it into a botanical garden showcase. In 1970, the couple gifted the property to the University of Washington, but the university found the costs of upkeep prohibitive. So the Bloedels established a nonprofit, The Arbor Fund to purchase it and open it to the public.

The Bloedels were known for their art collection and their willingness to let their home and its grounds serve as a retreat for artists and writers. A son donated hundreds of the family’s paintings to the Whitney Museum of American Art and to Williams College Museum of Art.

Along the way, though, one of Bloedels’ paintings was mired in controversy. It turned out to be one of more than 160 paintings Nazis confiscated from a Paris art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, in 1941. According to an article by James R. Warren on History Link:

Most famous (or notorious) of the works of art collected by the Bloedels was Henri Matisse’s Odalisque, which they subsequently donated to the Seattle Art Museum. It was later discovered that, unbeknownst to the Bloedels or to the Museum, the painting had been looted by Nazis from its original Jewish owners. It was returned to their heirs in 1999.

Hosting artists also was not without its ups and downs. Poet Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), a Pulitzer Prize winner, was found floating face downward in the pool after mixing a batch of mint julips. The former family pool is now filled in to serve as a peaceful sand and rock garden in the Japanese Garden area of the reserve, complete with a Japanese-style guest house.

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.

Theodore Roethke

Postcard from Cadiz, Spain: Favorite aunt hanging by strings for generations

Tia Norica

“Corre, corre, Tia Norica.” Tia (Aunt) Norica first pranced across a stage for audiences in Cadiz in the early 1800s.

With a cast of carved wooden figures, artist Pedro Montenegro began staging plays to entertain audiences in 1815. Early shows included the story of the Nativity, Isabel II and Libertad. Tia Norica soon managed to work her way into every play, becoming the audience favorite. The star marionette even merited her own comic sketch, El Sainete de Tia Norica.

The puppet company continued through the years under various directors. Electric lights and retablos for backdrops were added for productions by the early 1900s. And new plays and puppets continued to expand the repertoire.

Some of the charming rod and string puppets made their way to the permanent collection of the Museo de Cadiz in 1978.

“Descendants” of these puppets still are used for festival performances, so Tia Norica retains legions of fans.

No puppeteer is even needed for these older puppets to enchant. My imagination has assigned Tia Norica a voice similar to Robin Williams portraying Mrs. Doubtfire – with a Spanish accent.

The figure of Sancho Panza astride his donkey makes one wonder if the Cadiz puppeteer’s version of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic skipped over Part II, Chapter XXVI, when Master Pedro stages a puppet show for Don Quixote. In the book, Don Quixote was carried away during an attack by Moors in Master Pedro’s play:

Don Quixote, however, seeing such a swarm of Moors and hearing such a din, thought it would be right to aid the fugitives, and standing up he exclaimed in a loud voice, “Never, while I live, will I permit foul play to be practiced in my presence on such a famous knight and fearless lover as Don Gaiferos. Halt! ill-born rabble, follow him not nor pursue him, or ye will have to reckon with me in battle!” and suiting the action to the word, he drew his sword, and with one bound placed himself close to the show, and with unexampled rapidity and fury began to shower down blows on the puppet troop of Moors, knocking over some, decapitating others, maiming this one and demolishing that; and among many more he delivered one down stroke which, if Master Pedro had not ducked, made himself small, and got out of the way, would have sliced off his head as easily as if it had been made of almond-paste….

Don Quixote did not leave off discharging a continuous rain of cuts, slashes, downstrokes, and backstrokes, and at length, in less than the space of two credos, he brought the whole show to the ground, with all its fittings and figures shivered and knocked to pieces, King Marsilio badly wounded, and the Emperor Charlemagne with his crown and head split in two.

A miniature practice round for the windmills that lay in the knight’s path down the road. So happy Tia Norica was spared such an encounter.

Postcard from Cadiz, Spain: Water-locked ancient stronghold

Water. No matter what direction you walk, you quickly encounter it. It’s visually stunning and soothing, with ever-changing colors depending on the weather, time of day and whether you are on the east or the west side.

Geographically termed a peninsula between the Atlantic and its bay, Cadiz seems more an island. The thin band connecting it to the Spanish mainland is narrow to the point it feels but a fragile manmade thread that could easily be severed by an Atlantic storm.

This isolated location made it an ideal stronghold for early Phoenician explorers from Tyre to establish a stronghold on the Atlantic in 1104 B.C.  Gadir, as it was called then, is considered Europe’s most ancient city still standing. The city is associated with the slaying of the three-headed monster Geryon by Hercules in Greek mythology.

Cadiz has been ruled by Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines and the Moors. Christopher Columbus set sail from the port during his second and fourth voyages to the New World. When sandbars made navigation of the Guadalquivir River to Seville no longer possible, Cadiz flourished as the center for trade with the Americas. The fleet based in Cadiz invited frequent attacks and pillaging by Spain’s enemies through the centuries.

Today, the population of Cadiz numbers about 100,000. With much of the peninsula occupied by its industrial port, the actual residential area covers less than two square miles. There is no land for the city to expand in size, and, because of the city’s historical importance, buildings in the historic center are restricted in height. Unemployment is fairly high, which means the port still welcomes the arrival of cruise ships disgorging huge numbers of people for several hours at a time. Those temporary invaders were easy to avoid, however, as they failed to explore more than a quarter of the city.

The city is laid-back, and its narrow, mainly pedestrian streets, are pleasant to wander. Boardwalks skirt the water on all sides.

The island-like setting attracted the attention of 007. In 2002, Cadiz starred as Havana in the James Bond film, Die Another Day. I share this for one of the above views shown in the background of the film, not the non-subtle sexual interaction between Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan.

 

Instead of being catty about the film, I will switch to the topic actual cats. The most surprising inhabitants encountered is a large feral cat colony perched on rugged boulders on the Atlantic side. Tender-hearted residents provide the felines with boxes and crudely constructed shelters, and fishermen toss them scraps from their catch.